An injury resulting in a bruised or broken rib can often be difficult to diagnose and treat. Most often a fall, car accident, or contact sports can result in bruised or broken ribs. It is first necessary to determine if you think you have injured your ribs. Most often, you can treat yourself at home for your injuries. It is not possible to treat bruised and broken ribs like other bones. When other bones are broken, they can be placed in a cast or splinted to ensure they heal correctly. Unfortunately, this is not the case for your ribs and must heal naturally on their own. However, if things do not improve or get worse over time, it is necessary to consult a medical physician for further evaluation and treatment. An injury to the ribs is very painful, especially when breathing in. It will be difficult to breathe normally, but it is important to breathe as normally as possible to help clear any mucus from the chest area and prevent further infections. If you prevent yourself from breathing normally to avoid pain, you are more likely to end up with chest infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis that could result in hospitalization. Swelling, tenderness, or bruising on the chest may result over time. Even though most treatment will occur at home, it is still necessary to see your physician when you suspect bruised, broken, or cracked ribs or have difficulty breathing. When the cause of your pain has been determined, follow these steps to ensure your body heals properly: 1. Use pain medication Your doctor may prescribe pain medication that is more effective than over-the-counter. Make sure to take this medication regularly. If you are not prescribed pain medication, over-the-counter medication, such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol can help reduce your pain. 2. Ice Packs Use a ice packs regularly to prevent swelling. Hold the pack to your chest in 15-20 minute increments. If you do not have access to an ice pack, bags of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel will work as well. 3. Rest It is important to rest as much as possible. Take a few days off work until you feel that you can handle everyday tasks. It is necessary to take time off work especially is the pain is severe or you are required to do physical labor. The more your rest, the faster your body will heal. 4. Cough regularly Though it will be tempting to avoid coughing to avoid pain, this is a necessary part of the healing process. Refusal to cough can result in a build up of mucus in the chest and lungs resulting in an infection. To reduce the pain from coughing, hold a pillow against your chest. Do not wrap your chest in a bandage. This will prevent your lungs from expanding properly and increase your healing time. Try to move on a regular basis. Though it will be tempting to just lie down, this will be more difficult. It is recommended that you sleep upright for the first few nights to help your body heal. It is very important to avoid straining or lifting heavy objects until your ribs have healed. If you do not, you may injure yourself further prolonging the recovery process. Ask for help from friends and family if you have little children at home for the first few days. A bruised, broken, or cracked rib is not a fun experience. However, with the proper treatment and care, you will be back on your feet in no time. Make sure to follow your doctor's orders and practice more caution the next time you dive for that football.